Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 27TH APRIL, 2015
REFERENCE FROM COMMUNITY LIAISON COMMITTEE: 18TH MARCH, 2015
“ WHITE PAPER ‘REFORMING LOCAL GOVERNMENT: POWER TO LOCAL PEOPLE’ (REF) -
Cabinet had, on 23rd February, 2015 been requested to approve for circulation, the White Paper to stakeholders for their comments in advance of the Council’s formal response to Welsh Government by 28th April, 2015.
The Head of Performance and Development, in presenting the report, advised that the White Paper was Welsh Government’s Statement of Intent about the future of Local Government in Wales. The paper set out Welsh Government’s proposals for making changes in the following fields, local democracy, the roles and remuneration of Elected Members and Senior Officers, Community governance and Community Councils, community rights, corporate improvement, service performance, scrutiny, audit, inspection and regulation and finance.
In order for the Council to provide an informed response the White Paper had been referred for comments to the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources), the Council’s Democratic Services Committee, Standards Committee, Audit Committee, Community Liaison Committee, Voluntary Sector Joint Liaison Committee and the Vale of Glamorgan Local Service Board.
The Head of Service advised that all Members, Town and Community Councils and the public could respond to the White Paper direct however, any comments of the Committee would be referred to Cabinet for consideration.
The Chairman then opened the debate on the document for comments. The Town and Community Council representatives raised concerns in relation to the proposals for the re-organisation of Town and Community Councils, advising that a number of smaller community councils may not be able to pass the capacity test, as outlined within the White Paper. A Member of the Committee also felt that some local authorities may consider that Town and Community Councils (TCCs) should be ‘grouped together’ to assist with passing the capacity test which could result in some local authorities then relinquishing some of their responsibilities and delegating services down to TCCs. Of relevance all felt, was the aspect of the merger of local authorities and referred in particular merging to the Vale merging with Cardiff and the fact that Cardiff did not have the same infrastructure as the Vale and they were aware that Cardiff also had little interaction with their TCCs.
The reference to the number of uncontested seats was considered by all present to be flawed, particularly in the Vale where uncontested seats were not significant. The report was also in their opinion very disparaging to the Council Leader and on the whole it was seen as a condescending document. A number of Members commented that the Welsh Assembly Government should look internally at itself before it started reorganising local government and placing greater burdens on Members and Councils. For example Committee queried whether Welsh Assembly Members were recommended / required to produce Annual Reports and undertake PDRS. It was also considered that the proposals would lead to a loss of identity for TCCs.
In referring to the impression given by the paper that there were thousands of people within Wales wishing to become a Councillor, those present stated that this was not the case. There were no queues of people they were aware of waiting to become Councillors also if the Council numbers were to be reduced as outlined in the White Paper communities would not be supported as well as now.
In referring to the proposal for Area Boards to be established all present stated that they could not understand the requirement for such a tier of Government that was not required. Democratic accountability would also be lost as the proposals suggested the Boards would rely heavily on one or two Councillors to which they were vehemently opposed. The view was that the White Paper was an attempt to micro-manage Wales on so many levels which was not supported by the Committee. To limit the number of years a Member could be elected for was also considered unfair due to the fact that many may be quite young when their 25 years came to an end.
It was further considered in referring to the number of rural settlements within Wales that the White Paper proposals threatened the identity of a large number of rural communities within Wales. Reference was also made to the fact that some communities may not have an established Town or Community Council in their area. The representative from Llanmaes took the opportunity to advise that his Council consisted entirely of co-opted Members and he felt sure that if constituents were asked whether they would prefer the appointment of a co-opted Member or an Elected Member appointed for a much larger Council, the co-opted Member approach would win.
The majority of Town and Community Council representatives informed the Committee that their respective Councils would be making their own submission on the document and commented that in their view it should be classed as a Green Paper and not a White Paper. They also took the opportunity to reiterate the view that the Vale supported its Town and Community Councils much better than in other local authorities.
Following considerable discussion, and being the unanimous view of the Committee and all the representatives present from the Town and Community Councils, it was
AGREED - T H A T Cabinet be informed that the Community Liaison Committee did not support the proposals contained within the White Paper for a number of reasons, as outlined above, and which included the size of the Town and Community Councils proposed, the grouping together of smaller Community Councils and the loss of identity, the false economy of savings, the establishment of proposed Area Boards as another tier of government and the overall loss of democracy.
Reasons for recommendation
To advise Cabinet of the Committee’s views in order that a response can be forwarded to the Minister on the White paper.